Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The 3:2 Interview with Nicole Peeler

I’m very pleased to bring you the second 3:2 Interview with a spiffy author, wherein I ask three  questions about the author's current work, and two somewhat saucy questions in an attempt to get to know them better.

Today I’m grateful to Nicole Peeler for stopping by to metaphorically clink a beer bottle with us and shoot the breeze. Nicole is the author of the Jane True series, the second installment of which, Tracking the Tempest, is being released today. She’s under contract for six books with Orbit, so we’ll get to see plenty more of Nicole’s half-selkie heroine.

Writer’s Grove: One of the things I enjoy about your series is that Jane isn’t the typical asskicking urban fantasy heroine—the sort we always see dressed in black leather and holding something sharp and shiny. You’ve created something unusual within the genre here—even your covers set you apart from the crowd—and I’m wondering if that was an intentional act or something of a happy accident. What was behind your thinking in creating Jane? Walk us through your character creation process, if you will.
Nicole Peeler: I was inspired to write Tempest Rising by reading Dead as a Doornail, by Charlaine Harris. The idea of a heroine that wasn't kickass blew my mind, and I thought, "I could write a character like that." I'm too self deprecating to write a typical heroine, or even a typical anti-heroine. But Sookie was human-woman strong, and that was very inspiring to me. From that inspiration, I put together a bunch of my former and current interests, combined with what I "needed" for a character like Jane. I had Jane's essence first: the type of woman she'd be. Then, I started working on how to supe her up. I pretty instantly hit on selkies, but then I tweaked it by making her one of the progeny of the selkie-human pairings that have inspired so many myths. The combination of selkie and human gave me a character who could be magical, yet vulnerable; human, yet supernatural; smart, yet ignorant of her new world.
WG: Every single actor who’s ever played Dr. Who is alive and well and in the prime of his life, standing before you in a replica of the Tardis. Naturally you will want to squee—it’s an irresistible urge—but due to an evil plot by the Daleks you will only get to squee for ONE of the Doctors. The bad news is that the other Doctors will disappear. The good news is that the Doctor you squee for will ask you to be his new companion, and together you will defeat the Daleks once and for all. For whom will you squee, and why? Legions of Dr. Who geeks want to know.
NP: I would squee the hell out of Christopher Eccleston. It's the ears. And the accent. I'm always a sucker for a Northerner, of any country or planet.
WG: Your book has a vampire love interest, as many urban fantasies do. Why do you think that particular attraction has blossomed so well among both writers and readers? Can we trace everything back to Def Leppard’s song, “Love Bites,” or might there be a more significant sociological/cultural/psychological cause, or some other large college word at the root of it?
NP: I would hang everything on Great White's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," but that's just me. I think there are tons of reasons we love vampires: the menace, the promise of immortality, the multiple penetration . . . by which I mean fangs, bitches. Get your minds out of the gutter. 
My book has a lot of parodical elements, and Ryu is one of them. In Tempest Rising, Jane is totally, utterly excited to have a normal, old skool sexual fling. That Ryu is someone who screams "Fling" makes it even better. The way I see it, vampires--if they really existed--would have to be one of three things: parasites, like fleas, that no one wants to read about; monstrous predators; or total gigolos. I thought the third would be the funniest and sexiest to riff on, and I thought I could play a lot with the idea of what happens when women get what we think we want. We only catch a glimpse of this idea in TR, but Tracking the Tempest really delves into Jane's confronting what Ryu's existence truly means. So, yeah, women have fantasies about meeting that ultimate sexual ninja who will blow their mind with his sexcapades . . . but the reality of such a man is never as glossy as the exterior. They're fabulous for the short term, but long term? The issues rise to the surface like dead little goldfish. And nobody gets off on dead goldfish. At least, not people we discuss in public.
WG: You get to be a judge on Iron Chef America. What do you want their secret ingredient to be, and why? (No fair saying, “Bacon, because it’s bacon.” That’s too easy, because when they actually had bacon as the secret ingredient on Iron Chef America, it turned out to be a draw because everybody wins when they’re eating bacon.*)
NP: As I would eat poo if it were bacon-wrapped, I can understand your logic. Since I can't choose bacon, I would choose Guinness. I can drink it while they cook with it, and they can make delicious things with Guinness that I'd actually want to eat. If you've never had a Guinness cake, you're missing out on a little bit of heaven.
WG: How do you schedule your writing time? I’m very interested in this because you and I have similar day jobs (we teach), and I’m curious how you balance the demands of teaching with the demands of writing—and throw in the demands of drinking beer if you like.
NP: With the budget cuts at my university in Louisiana, this last semester was hell for writing. I really just wrote on weekends and breaks. I'm hoping to have a much more integrated author/professor existence at my new job, in Pennsylvania, at Seton Hill, where I'll be teaching in the MFA in Popular Fiction. But as far as balancing is concerned, I "balance" by working pretty much all the time. I've become just like my mother; I live for my work. And I'm totally unapologetic about that, as I love what I do and get so much pleasure out of my books and my teaching. I am, however, hoping to have a bit more of a social life in Pittsburgh. For Jane's sake, as well as my own. :-)
WG: Thanks so much, Nicole! Best wishes to you!
NP: Thank you, Kevin! It was great being here.
*Bobby Flay vs. Sursur Lee, 2006-2007 season, episode 12.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Watson Place, Part One

Now that I've finished my draft of Hammered and I'm waiting for my agent to give it a read, I'm free for a few days to relax—for the first time since last year, actually. It was about this time last year that Evan said he'd represent me, and ever since then it's been non-stop writing to complete the first three books in my series. I mean, there were days I wouldn't write, but I was always thinking about it and kind of working in that regard. Now I'm trying to chill and get my mind out of the fantasy world...with very little success. I'm already thinking about the next books. Heh!

But I'm confident that I'll be able to spending time in upstate New York with the Watsons, my in-laws. They have fifty acres with a bunch of stuff just growing wild around their place. It's beautiful here. Because I grew up in the desert and have lived there most of my life, I'm awed by all the green stuff. I took a few snaps today as I walked around a small fraction of the property. I'll take some more and post 'em in another installment later on. ALSO COMING SOON: next Tuesday, my interview with urban fantasy author Nicole Peeler; Thursday or Friday, my trip to the big city; and a trip to either Ommegang or Cooperstown breweries. Heck, maybe both!

These are some "black" raspberries that grow wild all over the property. Like everything else here, it's completely organic and free for the pickin' whenever it's ripe.

This bowl o' berries was picked this morning. We put 'em in pancakes for breakfast. The hand model is my daughter. Isn't she great?

Apple trees abound here. They have Macintosh, Granny Smith, Empire apples, and another kind they're not sure about. The Watsons bought this place from a dude who used to make apple wine out of them. Here you see some wee apples on their way to delicious.

This shot gives you a better idea of what it's like on the place. That's an apple tree in the center, surrounded by wild growth of various flowering doodads. I'm not much of a botanist so that's about as specific as I can get. The dog is a Newfoundland named Norphleet, which is Norwegian for "giant freakin' black dog." He's incredibly sweet and he loves roaming around the property.

I don't know what these furry fuzzy thingies are, except the remnants of a flowering plant that blooms in the fall. They're like woody skeletons standing sentinel in a field of summer bloom.

These are freshly harvested chives, which also grow wild on the property. Back in Arizona I have to pay $2.99 to get a wee package of organic chives and who knows how long ago they were harvested. So this morning I had a cheese and chive omelet (the eggs came from six chickens on the property, completely free range—they have the whole place to themselves) and berry pancakes, all major ingredients as fresh as possible. Life is good.

Like I said, more later. Hope your summer affords you a measure of peace as well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Deal is Made, a Book is Finished!

Happy dancing abounds, for Harper Voyager in Australia is going to publish Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered! I hope all the Aussies and Kiwis really like the books and make me come down there. ;-) The plan is to release them simultaneously with the US editions, so that'll be April, May, & June of next year.

Today I also finished Hammered—or my first draft of it, anyway. This makes me happy because I'm still a month out from my due date. I'm going to read it all through with a critical eye and make some minor revisions suggested by my alpha readers, then I'll send it off to my beta reader and my agent. Delivery to Del Rey will follow shortly thereafter.

I've kept tabs and posted plenty of updates on the writing of Hammered for my own curiosity, so that I could go back at a later date—say, this one—and see if anything interesting emerged. I'm going to take a more in-depth look at my archives later and see if I can make a fancy chart, but the first thing I've noticed is that this one took a bit longer to write. It's to be expected, really: I knew when I finished Hexed I'd probably never write that fast again. From the first typed word to final delivery in New York, it took me only five months. Hammered is already pushing six months and it's still not ready to deliver...but it will be soon. The takeaway here is that I wrote two novels in 11 months. I didn't know that was possible for me until I did it. :-)

Also, I'm getting very excited because next week I get to meet my agent and editor in person for the first time! Here is what I know about them so far:
1. Evan is male.
2. Tricia is female.
I think we'll have plenty to talk about, don't you?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some days are better than others

You probably noticed before now.

But when one has a really good day, the question must be asked, why was it so good? Can we isolate the goodness? Did it involve small furry animals at their cutest? Pizza at its tastiest? America's home videos at their funniest?

For me, really good days are those of staggering accomplishments, and today I accomplished a stagger, amongst other things.

Fueled partially by beer and partially by this incredibly hypercaffeinated song called "Valley of the Damned" that I had playing on loop, I wrote 4,000 words today. Usually I manage a mere thousand or a little bit more. It probably helped that I was writing a battle sequence between my Druid and twelve Valkyries. I mean, you're not going to listen to DragonForce with the speakers turned up to 11 when you're trying to write a poignant mother-daughter scene in a melancholy train station. Or maybe that's exactly what you'd do, because you're just that edgy...I don't know. ;-)

But when you want to have a really good day writing about people swinging swords at enemy appendages, you owe it to yourself to start out watching this video, which is what happens when the Platonic Ideals of Luxurious Hair and Manual Dexterity meet. Seriously, endure the commercial at the beginning, watch the whole thing and you'll be amazed. By the time you get finished watching the part where they have isolation cams on the guitar players' hands, you'll want to go get some high quality shampoo and conditioner, scrub it into your scalp really really fast, and then write about people killing each other. Heh!

74K now on Hammered. Next up, the climactic battle in Asgard! I just need to find the right song....oh, wait! Here it is! If that can't inspire me to write up some total carnage, I'm doomed. (Though I think parts of this video are unintentionally funny...)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #5

Well hi there! A couple of these are older releases but they're new to me, so I'm featuring them with citrus, a small topnote of berries, and a side o' watermelon:
Still Life with Fantasy and Fruit #5

It should be noted that the only lemons in this picture are the actual lemons. There are no lemons here in the pejorative sense. From L-R: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfield.

I haven't read Unholy Ghosts yet but I'm excited to get to it. Stacia has the same release schedule as me—her next two books in the series are coming out later this month and then in July, I think—and I have plenty of questions for her. Her main character, Chess Putnam, is something of an anti-hero, even for urban fantasy; besides being a witch, she's a drug addict. 

If you're a fan of Norse mythology, Norse Code is a good time. Don't let the girl with the sharp pointy thing fool you, because it's not all about her. There's sort of a revolving cast, and the cover actually amuses me now because I can just imagine the meeting between the editorial and art departments:

"Okay, there's this god Hermod who's really the main character but we can't use him."

"Why not?"

"Because even though he's kind of funny, you can't really illustrate that; he's sort of a bum, socially inept and insecure about his abilities."

"Right. What else you got?"

"Well, there's this hot Valkyrie who wields a Chinese saber."

"Excellent! That's made of win! Let's do it!"

The point of view switches from the Valkyrie to the god to a pair of ravens and so on. It's the oldest release of the bunch, but quite worth picking up. The author's latest release is a book called Kid vs. Squid, a novel for young readers, and my ten-year-old daughter is digging it very much.

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, is also intended for younger readers, and it's the first of a series. It's unusual in that it's an alternate history of WWI—you don't see many of those around. It can also be classified as an example of early Dieselpunk, if you like to classify things. As a subgenre, I'm not sure that Dieselpunk will ever catch on or hold the allure of Steampunk; the Victorian era had such smashing fashion, you see, and such interesting social taboos. On the other hand, the Dieselpunk era (1920-1945) is a very fertile fictional playground, especially if one wants to play with it as an alternate history. You have the swing era, mobsters & Prohibition, WWII...and there's plenty of room for new writers to break in here and do something very cool. I don't think the "definitive work" of the genre's been written yet; Westerfeld's book is clearly wonderful, but he's forced to steer clear of some of the grittier, "punkier" aspects of the time since he's writing for a younger audience. If you're interested in seeing more about the Dieselpunk aesthetic, check out this neato spread at Dark Roasted Blend (just scroll down past the ad). Based on Westerfeld's work, I'm ready to see more of this sort of thing targeted to an older audience. His book is great for his intended audience, though; my daughter loved it too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nerd/Geek/Dork Cred

I'm still not sure where I fit on the nerd/geek/dork continuum. I took this test and discovered that I'm 61% Nerd, 48% Geek, and 57% Dork. That adds up to more than 100% so that's probably pretty nerdy of me to point out. Or maybe it's geeky?

In terms of geekiness, there's this flow chart of the Geek Hierarchy, and if we were to stipulate this as being true then I'd be at the very top...or at least I will be next April. However, methinks there is much more to being a geek than simple fiction/entertainment preferences.

There are role-playing games, for example, like the classic Dungeons and Dragons, or Warhammer. There's some argument out there that D & D is like a "gateway drug" that leads to all sorts of nerdy-geeky-dorkdom, but bah, there can't be anything to that, can there?

Well, if it's true, I'm doomed. Or blessed, depending on your point of view. At least partially. I never played D & D, but I got into Warhammer last year with a friend of mine. The rules are slightly different, but yeah, it's a bunch of nerdy dudes with pizza and beer and many-sided dice talking about what their fantasy characters are going to do. Here's a sample of what our game play sounded like:

"I'm gonna slide up behind that demon minotaur and take a whack at his low-hanging balls with my axe, bitches." Except you have to salt that with about four F-bombs and punctuate it with a belch or a fart, then roll the dice and figure out whether the minotaur got to keep his nuts or not. Good times, good times.

 We had a paladin/priest dude, a ranger/scout dude, a messenger sort of gal who had a crossbow, and then there was my character: Oläf Umlaut, Dwarf Runesmith! Oläf was the best dude of the bunch, no doubt about it. He brained an undead five-year-old girl once with his hammer and saved the group from becoming zombie snackage, though the group didn't realize when he did it that she was freakin' colder than Hecate's frosty gazongas. As a result, they all thought he'd killed an innocent little girl and got insanity points. I thought Oläf was so awesome that night; when you can simultaneously save the group and turn them insane, you are a bona fide badass.

Oh, and we didn't play with little Lord of the Rings action figures, either. We had custom figures made from cannibalized Warhammer figures and painted up all nice n' special by my very talented friend (and game master) Alan! You want to meet Oläf? I know you do. Here he is, in all his miniature glory:

Check out that braided beard! And the war hammer slung on his left side! In his right hand he's carrying some blacksmith tongs, because that's his skill, and in his left hand he's got a freakin' stein of ale, because drinking is his other skill! Here's another shot of Oläf from another angle:

For Alan, painting Oläf was easy-peasy nice n' cheesy. He's seriously talented at model painting and Warhammer nerds fork over lots of cheddar to have him paint their pieces. He's won awards at conventions and shit. Check out this gallery to see what he's capable of producing.

But alas! Our merry band of nerds/geeks/dorks had to disband because of heinous flakery. We'd only play once a month, but some of the guys couldn't seem to make it regularly and it fizzled. I'd like to play again sometime, but in the meantime Oläf is retired and enjoying all the frothy ale he can drink. In any case, my Nerd Cred has now been firmly established.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My first blurb!

Color me excited! (I think that's alzarin crimson with a touch of cadmium yellow.) I've just received my first blurb for Hounded from fantasy author Ari Marmell:

"Offering a page-turning and often laugh-out-loud funny caper through a mix of the modern and the mythic, Hounded is perhaps one of the most fun debuts I've read in a good long while. I don't know what Hearne has planned for the future, but I'll be watching for more."

Woohoo! Happy dance bereft of grace! Cute puppies! Hot chocolate with marshmallows! Thanks, Ari!

I don't actually know Ari. Somebody at Del Rey who knows somebody knows Ari, and they asked him if he'd be willing to read Hounded and maybe write a little something if he thought it was nifty. He said yes because it's always good to rack up Karma Points. He got absolutely nothing out of doing this besides Karma Points—not even something cheap and nasty, like a convenience store hot dog. Authors do this sort of thing because they hope that someday, somebody else will read their book and say nice things about it too. If they don't like a book, they don't lie and say they did—what would be the point? There's no upside to recommending a snorefest to people; it damages your credibility. That's why I'm so grateful for this blurb; he didn't have to say any of that, but he did.

Several other people are taking a look at the book and may offer blurbs down the road. If/when they come in, I'll be sure to share. ;-)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Word Counts

Whenever you're tackling a big project like a novel, small goals are important, and the word count is an easy way to measure achievement. I'm at 60K words on Hammered today, so that's technically three-quarters of the way to my word count goal. It'll probably wind up going over 80K—Hounded and Hexed are both in the mid 80s—but heck, you take your milestones where you can. And I'm not saying these 60K words are golden. They'll get edited and revised and some passages will get cut out completely and replaced with something else. In the meantime, reaching a word count goal is an excuse to do a happy dance, because you need them while you're writing. It's far too easy to get discouraged otherwise.

Here's the difference between writing during school and writing during the summer: During school I averaged only 2550 words a week. During this first week of summer, I've written 9,000. It's really encouraging to make so much progress. I'm hoping I can keep up the pace to finish by the end of June...my deadline's at the end of July, and I like to be early if I can.

In other news, my brilliant wife, Kimberly, is also going to be published. Her article on F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American dream was accepted by The Explicator, an academic journal, and will appear in their next issue. She's amused that students can now cite her in their papers about The Great Gatsby.

And for fans of Norse mythology (I know you're out there, Amalia), check out Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout if you haven't already. His protagonist is a valkyrie and he knows his stuff really well. He switches POV between the valkyrie, one of Odin's sons, Hugin and Munin, and others. I'm not finished with the book yet, but I've been entertained so far.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cover Musings

The typical urban fantasy cover shows us an attractive young woman in leather holding a weapon. It's staggeringly popular and I'm not here to question why. I mean, duh, what's not to like? But Hounded is a wee bit different from most urban fantasies in that the protagonist is male. There are a few other male protagonists out there—Harry Dresden, of course, and then the dude in Harry Connolly's Game of Cages series and Simon R. Green's Nightside books—but mostly, it's a genre dominated by kickass heroines.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Plenty of people want to be dominated by a kickass heroine.

But I can't put one of those on my cover. I can't even put my character in leather, because he doesn't wear it, and he doesn't wear a trench coat or a leather duster or a hat pulled low over his eyes. To make things more difficult, my main character isn't a vampire or a werewolf—nor is he in love with a vampire or werewolf, employed in the vampire and werewolf-slaying industry, or related to a half-vampire and raising werewolves in the basement. He is, in fact, a Druid—but not the kind with giant beards and white robes.

So. How does one design a cover for such a character? How does one come up with something that will appeal to fans of the genre? Well, stay tuned. People smarter than me at Del Rey are figuring it out, and you can be sure I'll post it here when it's available. But I think it's safe to reveal two things at this point:

1. There will be no purple.
2. There will be no man boobs.

And I will not apologize for those things, because they are wrong.